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Civil rights groups seek action against voter ID laws

Staff Report

WASHINGTON — Nation­al and local civil rights groups are asking federal of­ficials to aggressively chal­lenge new election laws in Alabama, Mississippi and other states, saying the laws threaten to reverse decades-old efforts to expand voting rights to all Americans.

“It’s a widespread rollback of voting rights the likes of which we haven’t seen since poll taxes,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a voting-rights group based in Washington. “So we’re going to fight like we did in 1964.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he understands the fight, calling voting rights protection a priority for the Justice Department.

“Despite so many decades of struggle, sacrifice and achievement, we must re­main ever vigilant in safe­guarding our most basic and important right,” Holder said in a speech in Texas on Tues­day. “The reality is that in ju­risdictions across the coun­try, both overt and subtle forms of discrimination re­main all too common.”

Holder’s speech sent a “good shot over the bow,” said Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., who led the 2006 effort to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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